Friday, August 15, 2014

Science or Fiction?

All of us Space nuts know that what you really need to travel in space is a form of space drive that does not involve throwing matter out the back of your ship as rockets do. First, it is limited: once you run out of stuff to throw away, that's it.  Second, it means you need to keep lots of explosive, dangerous stuff in your ship while your drive is operating and as the stuff gets used up it changes the ship's performance.  Oh, and it's very limited.  If only we could just use energy itself to drive our ship through space we could equip it with generators, batteries and solar panels and just Go. No need to stop and refuel anywhere, no huge tanks of dangerous liquids required, just thrust at one gee aslong as you like and you can enjoy earth-normal gravity while getting there much, much faster than any rocket ship. 
Well the idea has been around for a long time, but recently people have claimed success doing just that: making a reactionless, exhaustless thruster.
Have a look here, and here courtesy WIRED.  To date, the total thrust output of the test devices is tiny, but even so, it already beats existing satellite systems and it never needs refuelling.  Then consider  the potential of a more advanced model using superconductors, which would work very well in space since the main requirement of superconductors as they are today is near- zero temperatures, which are already plentiful (as it were) in space.Provided you can take enough electric power with you, you can get anywhere in the solar system fast enough (and with artificial gravity, esssential for healthy humans) to do some proper exploring. Okay, so I am going out on alimb here postulating a reactionless thruster that can push one gee, but even with a lot lessthan that we could at least make a start. 

Then there is the backlash: according to some people this drive cannot work "because it disobeys Newton's laws of motion": Hilarious!  I don't care a damn what critics say: the proof is in the results and so far I can see that  there is a principle here that might work - and there are at least two science labs working on it so I think it will come to pass as real.  Actually, the very fact it does work will once again shake up the world of science and force people to question their blind assumptions.  Great!
Actually the "how" of it does not matter: only that it does. I recently read about big arguments by scieintific types about how ariplanes actually fly: the classical definition of how a wing profile generates lift is  not just open to argument, it cannot work that way: yet every day thousands of aricraft certainly do fly so it really does not matter so much - the truth seems to be a good deal more complex than the simple explanation I grew up with . . . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment